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“Hey guys, did you hear about the new anime that just got announced ‘I Woke Up in Another World as a Rake in Autumn?!'”
For as stupid as the landscape of light novel to anime production has become over the past few years, it is not as if it is all bad. After all, with every dime, a dozen video game fantasy stories comes a genuinely great piece of art. If waiting through five seasons of In Another World With My Smartphone means we also get a Violet Evergarden or a Spice and Wolf, I am more than happy to wait.
Still, despite its fairly common-looking presentation, I had at least some hope for In the Land of Leadale. Its focus on a character who was stuck in the hospital and only had video games as an escape, while not particularly original, did at least set itself up for some more introspective moments. However, while Cayna is certainly wide awake in this new version of Leadale, ready to discover its mysteries, the series itself is, unfortunately, sound asleep.
Video Game Fantasy World, Yay…
At this point, my gold standard for isekai-like fantasy worlds is No Game No Life. Maybe that is a little unfair because their stories are not trying to accomplish the same things, but I am making it anyway. The reason being: regardless of your feelings on its story and characters, No Game No Life‘s aesthetic contributes to building an identity that is fundamentally its own. Disboard is not just a setting, but a core aspect of the series.
This is not me asking every series to reinvent aspects of the genre or anything. However, there are a lot of elements of Leadale’s world that just feel boring. The towns are fantasy towns, the weapons are fantasy weapons. With the exception of the towers belonging to the various missing players, there is not much that separates Leadale in this regard.
Ok, but Good Story?
Leadale‘s story is definitely one of its better qualities, though I would probably stop short of calling it good. Cayna, now imbued with the powers of her avatar, begins exploring the world to figure out what exactly has happened. Along the way, she meets her in-game children she apparently forgot about, along with a crew of mercenaries and various figures from the magical academy in Felskeilo.
Much of Cayna’s adventure in this regard is fine, albeit a little dull. She goes to the guild, gets a quest, completes the quest, rinse and repeat. As she completes these quests, however, she finds more and more towers belonging to the missing players, getting special rings from the guardians of these towers. It is not well-explained what will happen when she manages to collect all of them, but it does at least give the series a through-line which keeps it somewhat engaging.
I think the best compliment I can give Leadale‘s narrative overall is that it feels a lot like watching someone play an MMORPG. Which, in the right context, can actually be a lot of fun. However, the series does little to clarify its overall plot, which means that context for enjoyment is absent.
That, and the fact that the series had one of the most powerful moments I have seen in a while. After adopting a young girl named Luka on one of her last quests and building a house in the countryside, Cayna sits on her back porch watching her and Lytt play in the flowers. At that moment, she reflects on the journey she has had thus far, contrasting it with the life she lived in the hospital and all of the things she has been able to do since coming to Leadale. It is a scene that serves as a reminder of how much potential In the Land of Leadale had that sadly got thrown away.
“Read the Manga” Endings, or in this case “Read the Light Novel,” have been fairly common in anime since the genre became popular. This is because anime is often used as a promotion for its source material counterparts. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this from an art perspective, it hurts even more since it feels as though the anime was only just picking up steam.
Before I get preempted in the comments, I will say this. I know it is hard for studios to commit to longer-running series because it often doubles their production costs. Not to mention, longer series often mean more crunch time for already overworked and underpaid animators and staff. Regardless, the show definitely could have benefited from an additional 12 episodes, given how much source material there already is.
I honestly feel a bit bad picking on the series like I have. Lord knows there are plenty of other isekai tail riders that deserve it a lot more, but while I did not expect much from them, to begin with, In the Land of Leadale seemed like it might be different. Sadly, aside from a few good moments, this was not the case. It is a fine series, but I cannot recommend it as something people need to watch.
How did you all feel about In the Land of Leadale? Let me know in the comments.
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